Australia have finished in top spot of Group C of the 2011 Asian Cup after defeating Bahrain 1-0 in Doha.
The Socceroos got the job done thanks to Mile Jedinak’s fine strike in the 37th minute and it was enough to keep them at the top of the group despite South Korea beating India 4-1 which allowed the Socceroos to edge the Taeguk Warriors on goal difference.
Australia will now meet the Group D runners-up in the quarter-finals, which at this stage is reigning champions Iraq, whilst Bahrain were left third in the group, three points clear of bottom-placed India.
2011 Asian Cup – Group C
Australia: 1 (Mile Jedinak 37’)
Venue: Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium, Doha
Referee: Yuichi Nishimura (JPN)
Yellow cards: AUS - Brett Emerton 42’, Brett Holman 85’
BHR - Jaycee John 29’, Abdulla Fatadi 65’, Abdul Wahab Ali 70’, Ebrahim Meshkhas 81’
In extremely wet conditions at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium, the Bahrainis started in a positive fashion, chasing the win they needed to get through to the quarter-finals.
Even though Australia had early half-chances, the Reds pressed forward with regularity and came inches away from an opener when Ismaeel Abdulatif advanced toward the byline before hitting the post from close range.
Moments later, Brett Holman cut open the Bahrain defence before playing in Harry Kewell but the Galatasaray man decided to go straight at goal rather than over the top of an advancing Mahmood Mansoor who deflected the ball out for a corner.
GOAL The Socceroos hit the front in the 37th minute when Mile Jedinak controlled the ball about 30 yards out before unleashing a bouncing right-footed shot past Mansoor for his second goal in two matches.
Less than two minutes later, Jedinak tried his luck again from a similar range after a free-kick was teed up for him as the Australians made their intentions clear at the end of the opening 45 minutes.
Five minutes into the second half, Abdulatif lashed from way outside the area, forcing a brilliant diving save from Socceroos keeper Mark Schwarzer in what was a dangerous moment for Holger Osieck’s men.
Just after that, Kewell burst into the area with Bahrain keeper Mansoor lucky to not make contact with his rash sliding tackle but the Bahraini defence got back to cover Kewell’s cross as Tim Cahill’s
The 58th minute saw Abdulla Fatadi’s strike knocked out by Schwarzer but it was such a powerful shot that the Fulham man was only able to parry away as Bahrain continued to chase an equaliser.
Osieck needed to make some change as Salman Sharida’s men were beginning to get on top and it should have been level in the 67th minute when Abdulatif again had a chance from inside the area but Schwarzer saved the day yet again with a fine save with his legs.
Carl Valeri found his range from way out but his dipping shot could not beat Mansoor in the 74th minute as the Socceroos went to their bench, bringing on Scott McDonald and Neil Kilkenny in quick succession.
Australia managed to steady the ship for the final 10 minutes or so and were able to hold out the Gulf nation and record their second win of the group stage to finish on seven points but will be without Blackburn Rovers midfielder Brett Emerton for their quarter-final clash after he received a second yellow card.
Mark Schwarzer (gk), Matt McKay, Lucas Neill, Sasa Ognenovski, Jade North (Kilkenny 79’), Brett Emerton, Mile Jedinak, Carl Valeri, Brett Holman, Harry Kewell (McDonald 77’), Tim Cahill (Kruse 90+1’)
Subs - Scott McDonald (77’), Neil Kilkenny (79’), Robbie Kruse (90+1’)
Mahmood Mansoor (gk), Abdulla Marzooqi, Abdulla Fatadi, Hamad Rakea, Jaycee John (Al Dakeel 66’), Ismaeel Abdulatif, Mahmood Abdulrahman (Hooti 55’), Salman Isa (Al Malood 90’), Abdulla Omar, Abdul Wahab Ali, Ebrahim Meshkhas
Subs - Rashed Al Hooti (55’), Abdulla Al Dakeel (66’), Abdul Wahab Al Malood (90’)